Locums – Employment rights and contracts

When it comes to being a locum, one part of the job that may be confusing is the legalities. As an incumbent doctor everything is much more straightforward with rights and responsibilities set out in the employment contract and the opportunity to get to know the hospital or practice you’re working within to establish working processes and how certain rights are protected. As a locum, there are still protections, but these may not be as immediately accessible and easy to understand for those without experience.

Employee status

Employee status is a key question as it is this that will determine key financial details, such as what is required of you from HMRC, what benefits are appropriate and what National Insurance contributions you need to make. There are three types of workers in the UK: a casual worker, an employee and someone who is self employed. It’s the reality of what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis that will determine which of these categories you fall into, rather than which you choose to call yourself.

Casual worker – services provided either direct to employer or via and agency, both on a PAYE basis.

Employee – services are provided direct to an employer and the relationship is governed by a PAYE fixed term contract.

Self employed – independent contractors and those who set up a limited company through which to sell their services (usually for tax purposes, to access the lower rate of corporation tax), either directly to an employer or via an agency. A genuinely self-employed person will have no obligation to an employer and the employer is under no obligation to offer work.

Locum agreements

As with any arrangement of services in return for money, it’s important to have a locum agreement in place, as this will govern the relationship, employment conditions and pay. A typical locum agreement should contain a number of key clauses including the following:

The booking – duration, hours, location and description of duties so that there is clarity as to what exactly is required, and when. This should include a specific timetable including performance targets in terms of patients seen etc.

The numbers – what is the hourly fee involved, is there an extended hours rate and what about the cost per hour for call outs that may be required for certain roles. This should also include any expenses that will be covered, such as travel.

Ending the agreement – how much notice is required to bring the arrangement to an end? There should also be a clause that states the agreement will come to an end if either party is in breach of it.

Responsibilities – this includes the responsibilities of the locum and the employer and will cover basics such as providing specific paperwork, training, the way tax is dealt with, medical indemnity and equipment supply.

Payment – the agreement should cover when payment for the work is expected. If payments are not made on time then this should enable the charging of interest under late payment legislations.

Rights and equal treatment

Rights and equal treatment as a locum depend on the type of worker that you are i.e. employed, self employed or casual. In general, employees enjoy the most rights, including a maximum working week, paid holiday, sick pay, paternity or maternity pay, protection against unfair dismissal, statutory sick pay and a rest break entitlement.

As a casual worker rights become more limited but still include a maximum working week, rest break entitlement, paid holiday, statutory sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay. Rights to leave and protection against unfair dismissal are no longer covered.

Those who are self employed have minimal rights, mainly because of the lack of employer-employee relationship. However, there is still an entitlement to maternity pay or maternity allowance and the protections that all workers have enshrined in law.

In addition to those rights that relate specifically to individual types of worker, everyone has general protections applied by law. Protection from discrimination is one of the most important of these, introduced by the Equality Act 2010. This piece of legislation protects all of us from discrimination in the workplace – and beyond – on the basis of sex, gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, marriage, disability or pregnancy and maternity.

Finally, European legislation also offers additional protection for those working as a locum via an agency. The Agency Workers Directive offers additional rights to anyone who has been working with the same hirer for 12 continuous weeks in a given job, including paid annual leave, the National Minimum Wage and the right not to have unlawful deductions made from wages.

For more information about working as a locum and how this might benefit your career, please get in touch with a member of the team.

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